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Friday, January 16, 2004



College complex
proposed for Kapolei

Several institutions might share
the same campus, including
maybe UH-West Oahu


A local developer is proposing to build a complex in downtown Kapolei that could include the University of Hawaii-West Oahu sharing facilities with private colleges.

Mark Richards, president and chief executive of the Maryl Group Inc., said he is "deep in the process" of building a private pharmacy college in Kapolei, across from the public library and the Bank of Hawaii buildings.

Richards is also talking with other private universities about locating in his development and said he would like to talk with the University of Hawaii about building a UH-West Oahu campus there.

The idea would be to build a complex similar to the Claremont Colleges in Pomona, Calif., where several different institutions share a common campus.



art


"The more participation there is, the more synergy develops," Richards said. "It becomes a more vibrant environment."

University of Hawaii-West Oahu Chancellor Bill Pearman said the idea is worth considering.

"It's an intriguing idea. I think it's something we shouldn't dismiss," he said.

UH Vice President for Academic Affairs David McClain said there could be some problems with sharing space with competing institutions, and the financial situation of the developer has to be taken into consideration, but he also said the idea is intriguing.

Richards said he envisions the different colleges and universities having separate buildings but sharing common facilities such as libraries, student unions, computer facilities and retail needs.

He would construct the buildings, then lease them back to tenants.

He said the Kapolei Library could be incorporated into the project.

"We've got this beautiful library out there that's presently unoccupied," Richards said. "Here's a public facility that already exists. All it needs is funding and operating expenses. Why not make that part of a private-public partnership?"

The location for the complex is only three blocks from a site that Campbell Estate officials said would be the best location for UH-West Oahu. However, the site, near the state office building and Kapolei Hale, faced community objections because of traffic and other concerns.

In 2002 the university and the Board of Regents picked a larger site on state land next to the Kapolei Golf Course as the preferred location for a UH-West Oahu campus in Kapolei.

Since 2002 seven new members have been appointed to the board. At their monthly meeting yesterday, several regents said they would like to review the plans for the new campus, the costs of building and maintaining a large UH-West Oahu facility, and options to pay for the development.

The regents have asked the university administration to explore private financing for the campus.

The current proposed UH-West Oahu location has lots of room to expand on 500 acres, and parts of it could be sold off or given to developers in exchange for building a campus. However, there is no infrastructure such as roads, sewer and water, and construction costs to build a campus there for 7,500 students are estimated at $364 million. The cost of constructing the first four buildings of the campus is estimated at between $75 million and $85 million.

At yesterday's meeting, Jan Yokota, UH director of capital improvements, told regents that she has talked informally with four private developers, and some of them expressed interest in building the UH-West Oahu campus in exchange for development rights.

Richards said he was not one of the developers Yokota talked to. He said he is more interested in building in downtown Kapolei rather than near the golf course because downtown Kapolei already has infrastructure.

"We're trying to go into a location where we have maximum flexibility but also reasonable costs," he said.

Richards said as his company began working on the project to build the private pharmacy college, "we started to look into some of the breadth of what is here in commercial education.

"My gosh, the market is huge. I had no idea," he said.

The idea of building a UH-West Oahu campus as part of the project was not part of his original plans.

But, he said, "if there's a better mousetrap, you'd be silly not to avail yourself of that opportunity."

His project could even be just a temporary location for UH-West Oahu, Richards said. The university could lease a building until the other location is completed, and when UH-West Oahu leaves, he could then find other tenants.

The privately held Maryl Group has 250 employees and is Hawaii's fourth-largest general contractor. It has offices in Kona and Honolulu and has built several commercial and residential properties, including the Crossroads shopping area in Kona.

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